IF Shay Logan, in his dotage, should ever seek a retirement pad close to the scene of some of his finest career moments, the sheltered housing scheme of choice might just lie in Dingwall rather than Aberdeen.
With startling regularity, the 29-year-old Englishman has stuck the knife into Ross County and he was at it again in this slender but convincing Dons’ victory. The winner was Logan’s fourth finish from the last four visits to the Global Energy Stadium and the full-back’s sixth in all against County from an Aberdeen career tally of 14.
This was a triumph of strength of character for Derek McInnes’ side, a testing fourth game in nine days against a powerfully-built County side bringing a fifth competitive win from seven in the Premiership and Europa League this season.
Logan, despite culpability for County’s early opener, seemed to epitomise that spirit and desire.
“Did I expect that goal from Shay? I didn’t expect him to give the goal away in the first minute,” McInnes said. “We started dippy – we were half-asleep. It wasn’t great, but the response was excellent after the first 15 to 20 minutes.
“We got a deserved equaliser and the second half was all about finding that winner. What was evident from my team was a real determination and attitude to win the game, none more so than with Shay’s goal.
“For Shay to make up that ground from the touchline to the back stick says everything about him. He put his hands up for the first goal mistake, but has more than repaid it. He deserves the limelight of scoring the winning goal because his record up here is incredible … considering he cannae score against anybody else. Shay is a good finisher but it is unusual to have so many against the one team.”
Logan’s clincher would have counted for less were it not for a wonderful Mark Reynolds strike in the first half cancelling out Craig Curran’s early opener for the Staggies.
“A stunner from Mark Reynolds? That’s the first time anybody has ever said that,” McInnes light-heartedly chided the centre-half. “He caught it so sweetly.”
Both teams blooded new signings from the off, with Stevie May welcomed into the Dons’ fold and Ross Draper, fresh from his six-figure switch across the Kessock Bridge from Inverness, earning his County debut from the start.
May would miss a couple of decent chances – one a few yards from goal – but McInnes was enthused.
“I thought Stevie May had a brilliant debut bar scoring. He’ll be disappointed but he’ll get there,” the Aberdeen manager said. “He showed exactly what he’ll be for us. He was terrific.”
The Aberdeen support packing out Ross County’s north stand is always arresting in noise and colour, but the party mood was curbed within 82 seconds of the first whistle.
County won a free-kick just wide left of the angle of the penalty area and Frenchman Christopher Routis swung in a dangerous, curling delivery. The Dons defence were napping as Curran snapped up the chance with a sharp header close in.
Despite gaining the early advantage, County failed to establish a grip on play and the Dons were level after 23 minutes. From Greg Tansey’s corner, County captain Andrew Davies rose to challenge Andrew Considine and the loose ball flew to Reynolds waiting just inside the area.
The defender’s control and precision on the first-time volley was worthy of the finest strikers in the world as it tore past Scott Fox and into the net.
The Dons, suddenly brimming with ideas and intent, began to exert control but half time came without reward. They remained in the ascendancy after the break, with a Greg Tansey cross swirling menacingly across the County box with no takers, while Fox had to pull off a finger-tip save below his bar from a Greg Stewart attempt.
Just before the hour mark, May missed that absolute howler close-in after Fox blocked a powerful Tansey free-kick, but Aberdeen’s second was clearly coming and, after 71 minutes, one of the smallest men on the park finally nodded them ahead.
This time it was a Gary Mackay-Steven cross that caught the hosts out, with Logan pouncing with a close-range header.
County had scant opportunities to restore parity but there were gasps of relief and home disbelief in equal measure as a thunderous, 30-yard Jim O’Brien strike smacked the middle of the Dons crossbar.
“I thought we started well, had a couple of good moves, scored a good goal, so from that aspect I was really pleased,” Jim McIntyre, the County manager, said. “But we were up against a good side and I felt we were guilty of going too long, too quickly.
“Any time we passed it through the lines, we were definitely better. We gave away too many cheap free-kicks and Aberdeen are very dangerous from set-plays.
“We did a lot well defensively, but didn’t show enough quality with our final pass in front of goal.”